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Apr 26, 2016 4:20 PM

Business behind bars: A look at the work being done by inmates inside NH's state prison

CONCORD - From stickers to signs, from woodworking to re-upholstery, about 200 inmates voluntarily spend their days on the job in workshops at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.

"Every time I come to work, I feel like I'm working like I was on the outside," said an inmate who did not wish to be identified.

Like any business, inmates have to apply for a position. According to prison officials, inmates can also be fired, an added incentive for good behavior while serving time.

"If their disciplinary issues were severe enough, certainly they would lose their position here,” said Ron Cormier, administrator of Correctional Industries. “Therefore, we have very few disciplinary issues out here in the shops."

According to Cormier, national statistics show inmates who participate in an industries program are 10 percent less likely to go back to prison.

The prisoners earn between $2 and $4 a day, but several told NH1 you cannot put a price on the value of a hard day’s work.

“When you have a job it makes you feel good about yourself again,” said inmate Cliff Weems.

Some Granite Staters have caught wind of the re-upholstery work done at the prison, paying to have their furniture made over by inmates.
The shop has become so popular there is a six-week waiting list.

That is where inmate David Burns was found working feverishly on a couch as he serves time for attempted murder.

“I never thought I'd be sewing anything in my life,” Burns said.

Even though he could spend life in prison for his crime, Burns said learning a new craft makes rebuilding his life seem possible.

"I guess it gives me maybe hope that when I get out I have something different I could fall back on," he said.

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